[Trip Down Market Street Before the Fire, A]
- Publication date
- Public Domain
Pictures San Francisco's main thoroughfare as seen from the front window of a moving Market Street cable car, before the downtown area was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire. This unusual record has been called the first "structural film" because it follows exactly the externally imposed structure of the car ride.
Here is a post from the SFGate blog that explains some of the history of this film and how film scholar David Kiehn discovered that it was in fact produced in 1906 (just before the quake and fire), not 1905: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/stew/detail?entry_id=62237
A TRIP DOWN MARKET STREET: taken from the front of a street car starting from about 9th and Market and going down to the Ferry Building at the foot of Market and turning around / autos / streetcars / people.
LC synopsis (taken from website) reads:
This film, shot from the front window of a moving Market Street cable car, is a rare record of San Francisco's principal thoroughfare and downtown area before their destruction in the 1906 earthquake and fire. The filmed ride covers 1.55 miles at an average speed of nearly 10 miles per hour. While there is no production or copyright information on the film, the state of completion of the Flood Building and the Monadnock Building indicate that the year is 1905. Also, the apparent position of the sun in relation to the time visible on the Ferry Building clock point to early September as the month. Market Street, graded through sand dunes in the 1850's, is 120 feet wide, and nearly 3.5 miles long. The street runs northeast from the foot of Twin Peaks to the Ferry Building. Different street grids, diagonal on the northwest side and parallel on the southeast side, create several awkward diagonal intersections along Market Street, contributing to the chaotic traffic situation that is evident in the film. San Francisco's cable cars, which first began operations in 1873, have no power of their own, and operate by "gripping" a moving cable beneath a slot in the street. This is the origin of the name "south of the slot" for the South-of-Market Street district. The Market Street lines, dating from 1883, merged in 1902 to form the United Railroads of San Francisco. Dark cars served westerly neighborhood lines extending along McAllister, Hayes and Haight streets, light cars served southwesterly neighborhoods, with the lines extending along Valencia and Castro streets. The Market Street section of the lines ended at the Ferry Building, where passengers boarded ferries for Oakland, Alameda, or Berkeley, across San Francisco Bay. East of Sutter Street, horse cars ran along Market Street. Independently owned, they ran on side tracks to the Ferry Building. A few electric streetcars, dating from 1892, are seen in the film crossing Market Street. Market Street itself reverted to electric streetcars in 1906, following the earthquake and fire. In all, the film shows some thirty cable cars, four horse cars and four streetcars. An interesting feature of the film is the apparent abundance of automobiles. However, a careful tracking of automobile traffic shows that almost all of the autos seen circle around the camera/cable car many times (one ten times). This traffic was apparently staged by the producer to give Market Street the appearance of a prosperous modern boulevard with many automobiles. In fact, in 1905 the automobile was still something of a novelty in San Francisco, with horse-drawn buggies, carts, vans, and wagons being the common private and business vehicles. The near total lack of traffic control along Market Street emphasizes the newness of the automobile. Granite paving stripes in the street marking ignored pedestrian crosswalks, making the crossing of Market Street on foot a risky venture. The pedestrian "islands" for homeward-bound downtown cable car commuters are among the few signs of order visible in the film.
The following is a scene-by-scene description of the film: [Frame: 0300 (part 1)] The film begins looking northeast on Market Street just west of the intersection of Hyde, Grove and 8th streets. The dark building at right is the Odd Fellows Hall and the grey building beyond (across 8th St.) is the Grant Building (1905). A white postal service automobile is at left center. The three large buildings receding down Market Street at left are [0319 (part 1)] the Murphy Building (1889), [0353 (part 1)] the Donohoe Building (1890), and the Flood Building (1905). The distant tower of the Call Building (1897) is at center right. Roadwork is underway at far left, and a city water wagon is at right. [0428 (part 1)] After a break in continuity, the film jumps ahead one block and approaches the intersection of Taylor St. and Golden Gate Ave. on the left. [0565 (part 1)] The view includes the prominent Flood Building on the left, the distant Ferry Building in the center, the domed Call Building at right center and the Emporium department store (1896) with the white side wall, on the right. The newly finished Call Building, the largest office building in the west, was the latest addition to San Francisco's skyline in a building boom that had begun in the 1890's. All of the buildings named above were either rebuilt or refitted after the 1906 earthquake and fire. [0603 (part 1)] The cut masonry facade at right, beyond 6th, is Hale Brothers Dry Goods. [1216 (part 1)] A street sweeper is at work on the right. [1488 (part 1)] The column at left is the Native Sons Monument (1897) at the Mason/Turk Streets intersection. Honoring California's admission into the Union in 1850, it now stands at the intersection of Montgomery and Market streets. [1885 (part 1)] As a lady boards a cable car, a man gets off and crosses Market Street carrying a baby. [3086 (part 1)] At left, one of the downtown home-bound cable car commuter "islands" comes into view. [3321 (part 1)] Next, the entry awning of the Emporium department store appears on the right, while beyond, the California Academy of Sciences Building (1891) and the old Flood Building (1888), which were not rebuilt after 1906, can be seen. [3615 (part 1)] A confused pedestrian dodges traffic at center as an umbrella-carrying businessman boards a cable car. Ahead, [4000 (part 1)] a group of young women, dressed according to age, await a cable car. On the left, the "flatiron" Phelan Building is largely in shadow and beyond, at the Kearny/Geary streets intersection, the double-blank rear wall of the Mutual Savings Bank (1902) and the dark Chronicle Building (1890) can be seen [4143 (part 1)]. Next, a dark, low-slung drayage cart crosses to the right, beneath a wall advertisement for Sanborn and Vail Wholesalers [4432 (part 1)]. As the camera approaches the Stockton/Ellis Street intersections, a shuttered electric streetcar (perhaps a mail car) crosses from Ellis Street [4596 (part 1)]. For the next two blocks we will pass through the busiest portion of Market Street, with the main business district extending along the streets to the left (north). [4766 (part 1)] A policeman and a lady dressed daringly in white are seen at right before a jumble of Victorian facades between 4th and 3rd streets, and at center [5018 (part 1)] a father and sailor-suited son appear. Beyond them [5580 (part 1)] we encounter an impatient commuter who raises a hand hoping to stop our cable car. [Cataloger's note: the first 2060 frames of part 2 (approx. 1:10) are repeated from the end of part 1] [Frame: 2160 (part 2)] A sign for "Pianos" is at upper right. As the camera approaches the Kearny/Geary Street intersection, several buildings come into view. At left the Mutual Savings Bank and, across Kearny, the Chronicle (newspaper) Building and the rear of the Crocker Building [2765 (part 2)]. In the distance at the center is the Ferry Building, and closer in, the row of repeated bays is the great Palace Hotel (1873), the largest and most luxurious hotel in the west. Next to the hotel is the unfinished Monadnock Building and the white-walled Hearst (Examiner newspaper) Building (1897) at the corner of 3rd Street. At the far right, (on the near side of 3rd Street) is the columned entry of the Call (newspaper) Building. For obvious reasons, this Market Street intersection was called "Newspaper Row" or "Newspaper Corner." All of these buildings were rebuilt or refitted after 1906. Ahead [2970 (part 2)] an electric streetcar crosses the very busy intersection from Kearny to 3rd Street. At left note the flags flying in the breeze while at right the camera passes a wooden structure built to protect pedestrians beneath the unfinished Monadnock Building. [3490 (part 2)] Well-dressed businessmen cross the street and ahead [3681 (part 2)] on the right are two newspaper boys. Next, [4010 (part 2)] an electric sightseeing streetcar crosses to Kearny Street. Note the activity at this busy intersection [4380 (part 2)]. At left, in shadow, is the Crocker Building [4575 (part 2)] and beyond (across the Montgomery/Post Streets intersection) is the Union Trust Bank. We pass a group of women in fashionable hats at right [4645 (part 2)], and as we approach the Montgomery/Post Streets and New Montgomery Street intersection the Union Trust Bank and Hobart Building [4945 (part 2)] are seen at left, while on the right is the 1870 Victorian style Grand Hotel. An automobile full of joyriders at left [6410 (part 2)] will return back to the Ferry Building from here. Note the bright sunshine and strong shadows here, while the fluctuating light levels may indicate that fog is passing overhead. Having passed through the heart of downtown, the camera approaches the Sansome/Sutter Streets intersection, where a Western Union clerk (from his Hobart Building office) hopes for a ride [6695 (part 2)]. Next comes San Francisco's wholesale district, where coffee, tea, and spice companies, as well as various light industrial businesses, were located. Note the many large drayage wagons [6927 (part 2)]. Next is the Battery/Bush Streets and 1st Street intersection. From here to the Ferry Building is filled land in the former Yerba Buena Cove of gold rush days. At right is the Sheldon Building (1887). [7358 (part 2)] A businessman with very tight shoes crosses Market Street and later, [Frame: 0100 (part 3)] a lady in a white-feathered hat boards a cable car. The spired building on the left [0547 (part 3)] is the McColl Building, located at the Davis and Pine streets intersection; the turreted O'Brien Building (1890) at right is at the corner of Fremont Street. Note the express wagon ahead of the camera [1290 (part 3)]. The boy looks out the back as the driver looks back from the side. The black driver is the only non-white person seen in the film (San Francisco's population was 95% white in 1905 compared to 49% in 1993). [1400 (part 3)] A Sutter Street horse car approaches at left behind a heavily-laden drayage wagon. Ahead on the right is a General Arthur Cigars wall advertisement [2300 (part 3)]. The Ferry Building clock reads 3:17 as a California Street horse car, enroute to the Ferry Building, crosses in front of us [3000 (part 3)]. Note the water on the street [3455 (part 3)] (probably from a morning shower) and the advertisement on the wall at right for Nathan Hale Havana Cigars. The camera approaches East Street (today called the Embarcadero) and the Ferry Building cable car turntable. Note the small cable car staff booth. A People's Express van crosses in front [4659 (part 3)], followed by a cart enscribed "Eureka, California." [4710 (part 3)] The cable car has reached the end of the line. The Ferry Building cornerstone reads, "Erected 1896 by the Board of the State Harbor Commission." (The building opened in 1898 and was finished in 1903.) A man's beard blows in the wind [5318 (part 3)] as the car turns on the turntable (pushed by staff), panning across the north section of East Street. Note the advertisement for Owl Cigars [5614 (part 3)] and the Hotel Terminus sign on Market Street [5776 (part 3)].
San Francisco, California Streetcars Trolley cars Urban culture Urban history Street scenes Traffic Right-of-way
- Closed captioning
- United States
- Creative Commons Public Domain license.
- Run time
Subject: simply amazing
Subject: Better copy now available for download
This is a DV file (2.3 GB) made from a 35mm print, which in turn was made from our new preservation negative.
Subject: Old things - good things
Subject: Is there not a better copy?
Tiny lines that are certainly not part of the film.
This is also a very low res file: 368X480.
I am confident the Miles Brothers would want their film to be available to as many people as possible in the highest quality possible.
Subject: CBS 60-Minutes episode
Subject: As seen on 60 Minutes, Actually April 1906
days before the earthquake/fire.
The film would have been destroyed except it was on
a train headed for NYC!
Subject: SFGate blog about film
It identifies the owner of the car with the 4867 plate as a Jay Anway.
Subject: Trip down market street
Subject: The trip down Market
Subject: Great Film - and it was made in 1906 right before the quake!
This film, originally thought to be from 1905 until David Kiehn with the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum figured out exactly when it was shot. From New York trade papers announcing the film showing to the wet streets from recent heavy rainfall & shadows indicating time of year & actual weather and conditions on historical record, even when the cars were registered (he knows who owned them and when the plates were issued).. It was filmed only four days before the quake and shipped by train to NY for processing. Amazing but true!
Subject: Re: Trip Down Market Street Before the Fire
On the technical side the film is very clear and detailed compared to other films of the day. It has been preserved well. It is a pity that the projector used to display the film would cause the image to roll. Perhaps this can be fixed in a future restoration.
Subject: Magnificent Archival Footage
I could actually make out the gas-powered lamps on some of the automobiles of the day and recognize the coaches on the cable cars as being very similar to the electric street-cars I rode is as a small child in New Orleans, LA.
Another five stars should go to the poignancy of the fact this may very well be the last footage taken of Market Street before the horrific 1906 earthquake and fire.
Subject: Footage after the fire.
I wish someone would fix it.
Subject: Great film
The frame roll DOES actually disturb a little, someone offered to fix that, I'd love to see a version without that frame roll, even if there is a white line in the middle. As Mr. Prelinger said, it would be really difficult getting a better telecine, so doing what's possible with this would surely be an acceptable solution if someone had the time to do it.
Subject: Before / After
Subject: Like a trip going back in time
The eerie silence reminds me that all these people are long dead and gone.
Fascinating, I loved it!
Subject: The Jaywalkers
Subject: Trip Down Market--the remake!
Wednesday, August 3, 2005 (SF Chronicle)
After 100 years, not much has changed on Market Street -- well, not too much
ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ On a sunny September afternoon in 1905, a man named Jack Kuttner attached a camera to a San Francisco trolley and shot black-and-white film as the streetcar rolled east from 10th Street on Market Street. The result, a herky-jerky 20-minute film, is a time capsule of industrial age mobility...
ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ Few copies of Kuttner's film exist, but the Exploratorium, a museum in San Francisco, owns one. San Francisco filmmaker Melinda Stone saw it six years ago; transfixed, she decided to re-create it at its centennial. She is nothing if not patient. Years of planning came to fruition recently when she and a small crew shadowed Kuttner's feat. The result will be shown, along with Kuttner's film and local artists' transportation-related
work, at "A Trip Down Market Street 1905/2005," an outdoor screening on Sept. 24 in San Francisco's Justin Herman Plaza, sponsored by the Exploratorium.
Subject: Historical Treasure
Do note that the film suffers from frame roll, especially at the begining and the end of the film and the last 30 seconds of the film seem to be select frames. However, given the age and importance of the film, these defects are forgiven. Otherwise, the image quality is quite good.
Subject: Trip Down Market Street, revisited.
Subject: Look Out!!
I'd like to attempt to correct the frame roll myself, but would need full frame uncompressed video to work from.
Subject: A work of genius
A technical note: it seems the speed has been overcorrected a bit: everything moves in a slight slo-mo.
Finally: the same person (apparently) reshot this film *after* the earthquake. This amazing film is at movies03.archive.org/2/movies/SanFranc1906_3 (note the suffix is "_3"; there is also a similar short film whose name ends with "_2" - a different thing, also quite interesting).
Subject: Love This, plus An Offer
Yes, I realise providing a full frame telecine means threading this precious film back through the telecine, so if you're not comfortable doing that then I'll work with what you've got already. Let me know, the offer is there.
(I'm still looking for a contact email, so I'll post this offer as a review for now)
Subject: I see dead people.
Subject: I thought the traffic was bad today!
Subject: Very shaky picture
Subject: A Trip Down Market Street Before the Fire
I particularly enjoyed the multitude of methods of transportation co-existing during the same period. When I studied history in school, I was left with the erroneous notion that once the car was created all other means of transportation dissapeared. This film shows us that it was not so.
A great historical treat! It was worth the almost two hours to download!
Subject: Looking into the past
I really enjoyed being able to see the people of the time, their transportation options, clothing, and places of business. What a great place it would have been to visit in the early 1900's.
It is such a powerful example of why humans need to preserve our motion pictures.